Travelling with young ones is a fantastic bonding experience. But when you travel abroad, transport ease and safety standards can be very different from those here in North America. Thus, it’s important to take a look at the pros and cons of different transportation when you’re travelling with very young children.
Planes: the Pros
If you manage to score cheap flights to your destination, you’ll significantly cut your travel time. This will be easier on your children than a long drive may be without costing too much. Travelling in an airplane with kids can also be an educational and exciting experience for them, especially if you can get a flight attendant to introduce them to the captain and show them the cockpit before takeoff or after arrival.
Planes: the Cons
Unfortunately, flying with children can be a very trying experience as well. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you may be stuck in limbo with exhausted kids and not much to do but wait. Also, children who are prone to ear infections may find the pressure in their ears during takeoff and landing painful. Catching a cold from other passengers is also a risk.
Trains: the Pros
Trains are a great way to travel and point out to your kids interesting details of the countryside you’re passing through. Unlike a car, you’ll have the freedom to enjoy the trip with them and you won’t have to concentrate on driving or navigating. Trains also have more space to move around in for kids who don’t like to sit still. A big plus is that the bathroom is always accessible, unlike in an airplane. Also, the engineering of trains and railway stations may be endlessly fascinating to some children.
Trains: the Cons
While you check your bags on an airplane or close the trunk on them in a car, on many trains outside of North America you’ll have to hoist your bags on and off the train, and personally make sure they’re properly stowed in overhead racks. If you’re travelling with several children and each member has a bag or more, you may find train travel inconvenient. Also, train travel often takes longer than other modes of transport, so your children have more time to get bored than they will on a plane or even in the car.
Rental Car: the Pros
If your family takes road trips or family drives back home, then the feeling of having a rental car to tour in when you’re in a foreign land may be a comfort to your children. The car becomes an extension of your home area where your family can regroup and relax. You also can frequently stop the car if roadside sights appear, tummies rumble or young legs need to be stretched.
Rental Car: the Cons
If you’re planning to rent a car and travel somewhere you’ve driven before, you’ll probably have no trouble putting your kids in the back and getting on the road. But if you’re banking on shepherding your family through foreign traffic — possibly on the “wrong” side of the road — without having tried it before, you may be simply increasing the stress level of all members of your group. If you have children young enough to need a car seat back home, you may find it hard to rent an equivalent accessory overseas. If you plan ahead, you can bring one from home. Or, you may decide that another mode of transport is easier.
Public Buses: the Pros
Taking buses around a foreign city or across a country can be an economical and practical way to get off the beaten path with your kids. Bus travel will allow you and your kids to meet locals, and to see the cityscapes or countryside from a viewpoint that is often missed when taking trains or private cars.
Public Buses: the Cons
It’s not likely you’ll have any problems on your trip, but in developing nations bus travel can be a risk. Drivers are often asked to work long hours, and road maintenance may not be the best. Additionally, stops on longer trips may be infrequent, so children who need to stretch their legs, eat something or use the restroom will be out of luck until the final destination.
About the Author: Shania Docker is a stay-at-home-mom who has four children under the age of 12. Last year, the Docker family completed a four-country tour of South America.